Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review: Compliance

Year: 2013
Director: Craig Zobel
Screenplay: Craig Zobel
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy

Synopsis is here

I’m not surprised that there was a certain amount of anger was aimed at Craig Zobel’s feature; Compliance. Although inspired by true events, the film almost asks you to take a massive leap of faith. I’m sure when many watch the events that took place, many couldn't, nay wouldn't, believe that something similar had taken place in real life. And yet a quick Google of the name Lynndie England would take you to sites talking about the Abu Ghraib torture pictures.

The pictures show England, posing and mocking naked Iraqi prisoners. Her response as to why she posed in those pictures was that she was taking orders from people in higher ranks (she was also in a relationship with one of the officers). Stating that she felt odd posing like she did, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. Compliance plays on the idea that under authority, with the right pressure and stress applied, responsibility diminishes. It’s at that point when bad things happen.

But the film is still incredible hard to take in, but constantly thought provoking. I’m sure there are tons of message boards full of comments from smarter folk who would never do anything like what transpires within the films plot. But then again despite intelligence, one can still be recruited into a cult.

Zobel’s film gets the environment just right. From the very start restaurant manager; Sandra (Ann Dowd), is already under a certain strain. A confrontation with a supplier sets up the day awkwardly and Sandra, a well meaning but unpolished woman is already at odds with the playground politics that take place in retail places such as this ChichWich restaurant. A conversation between relationships neatly shows the differences and conflict between Sandra and Becky (Dreama Walker), the teenage girl who becomes the main victim in the situation.

But everyone becomes victim in a prank which quickly takes advantage of authoritative powers. Zobel’s film may anger people, because it shows how easily and engrained some of our human behaviours are. A female manager hears over the phone; a firm yet relatively friendly male voice proclaiming to be a police officer and quickly she lends responsibility over to the voice. While the conversation continues out back, the restaurant gets busier.  It’s a Friday and places such as this are always busy

The caller at first is vague about the details of his call. Allegedly there’s a theft and someone out front is culpable. But as the conversations wear on, the caller (a despicable Pat Healy) is able to influence the situation further due to fudged facts and background knowledge. The conversations at times feel much like recent bank card scams that have come into play recently.

Zobel’s script cleverly picks up on those small details that we so easily forget, but help the caller gain such an advantage. Healy’s caller character effectively uses cold reading to make it appear that he knows more than he actually does.  The film also uses its surroundings to its advantage. Much like the occurrences the film is based on, the cinematography gives us an on point description of small town U.S.A., a place with less “excitement” and ultimately, less reason to be suspicious of authoritative orders. As the film continues, we see less of anything else. Just faces in concerned close up, with little to console them except that voice on the other line.

Compliance is well performed and neatly observed and a great film to watch to perhaps provide a few moments of water cooler/after dinner chat. I do doubt however that many will feel the need to watch more than once. Most will argue they wouldn't be taken as such a fool and many may not. But Zobel’s film understands the smaller details that make events like this happen.  Nobody believes that they can be made the victim. If that was truly the case films like Compliance would not exist.